Melbourne sweep Wellington aside to go Top

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 25
7:30pm, Monday 28 March, 2016 – Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne City FC 3 (Novillo 43′, Fornaroli 66′, 80′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 0

Melbourne City stormed to the top of the Hyundai A-League standings in style on Easter Monday, sweeping aside Wellington Phoenix 3-0 in front of 9,895 fans at AAMI Park to take over the league lead on goal difference.

The game came to a grinding halt just two minutes into play when a clash of knees left Melbourne’s Harry Novillo and Wellington’s Ben Sigmund requiring treatment. Sadly, the latter had to cry off ten minutes later, a premature end to his final appearance on foreign soil before retirement.

By the time he left the park, Glen Moss had twice been called into action to keep City at bay, firstly turning away Bruno Fornaroli’s ninth minute twenty-five yarder before producing a super save to his left to deny the same player two minutes later, after Fornaroli had worked a one-two with Nick Fitzgerald on the right then rampaged past four opponents into the heart of Wellington’s penalty area before letting fly.

As the crowd broke out in applause in the fourteenth minute to acknowledge Johan Cruyff’s passing, Novillo fired a free-kick from wide on the left narrowly past the near post, the Frenchman taking charge of set-pieces in this match in the absence of Aaron Mooy, who was on international duty.

Three minutes later, a defensive blunder by Ben Garuccio let in Roy Krishna, making his first appearance for Wellington since the injury which effectively scuppered both his team’s campaign, as well as that of the Fijian flyer.

His lack of sharpness showed in the next few seconds, as what was a great chance to open the scoring was sent sailing harmlessly wide of Thomas Sorensen’s goal from the edge of the penalty area.

A further ten minutes elapsed before the next shot on goal, but in that time City further emphasised their superiority in their pursuit of topping the table at the end of the evening.

Novillo turned this way and that before engineering the space from which to let fly at goal. Moss turned this effort round the post, and was relieved to see Michael Zullo thrash his drive into the near post side-netting seven minutes later, after Fornaroli and Novillo had combined to good effect.

After Novillo’s splendid solo run past six players culminated in Moss stepping in to deny Fornaroli, the deadlock was broken two minutes before the interval as City’s front-running duo contrived a cracking goal.

Zullo played the ball wide to Novillo, who cut inside before working a one-two with Fornaroli. The Uruguayan’s return pass – a lobbed flick over the defence – was a brilliant piece of improvisation which deserved a goal, and the Frenchman duly provided it, hammering home emphatically beyond Moss to open the scoring in the shadows of the half-time whistle.

Wellington enjoyed their best spell of the match in the first ten minutes of the second spell, but they offered very little in the attacking third to show for their efforts.

Michael McGlinchey’s 57th minute shot was blocked to safety by Patrick Kisnorbo, while Hamish Watson’s smart shot on the run seven minutes later drew a sound save from Sorensen, after Roly Bonevacia’s clever one-two off an opponent created the opportunity.

Those efforts, and a last minute attempt by half-time substitute Blake Powell to grab a consolation goal, were the only shots worthy of the description fired in anger all evening by the visitors, whose season cannot end quickly enough.

Melbourne’s campaign, meanwhile, has plenty of life left in it, and plenty more goals, too. They were denied a second in this match on the hour when Moss pulled off another smart save to deny Fornaroli, after he had swooped on an Albert Riera error.

Another blunder by the Spaniard five minutes later saw Zullo go down in the penalty area, prompting referee Chris Beath to make a rare decision about which neither side could complain.

Up stepped Fornaroli from twelve yards, only to be denied by Moss, who had the misfortune to see the rebound go straight back to the league’s leading marksman. There was no mistake second time round – 2-0 in the 66th minute.

After this, it was very much a case of ‘by how many’. Fornaroli’s charge through the inside-right channel two minutes later took him past two defenders before he thrashed a shot across the face of goal, while Connor Chapman was denied a goal three minutes later after Fornaroli was harshly adjudged to have crossed the ball from beyond the dead-ball line – replays suggest that was far from the case.

Unperturbed, City powered on, Novillo’s splendid twenty-five yard free-kick arcing over the wall but just past the right-hand angle of Moss’ goal fifteen minutes from time.

Five minutes later, the home team extended their lead still further, and it was a belter, made possible by the outstanding work of Fitzgerald in the build-up. He not only kept a seemingly lost cause in play, but evaded the challenges of both Manny Muscat and Alex Rodriguez before working a one-two with Anthony Caceres.

Fitzgerald then played the ball into the feet of Fornaroli, who controlled the ball, then swivelled and slammed an unerring twenty yarder into the top left-hand corner of Moss’ goal – a cracking strike as impressive in its execution as it had been in its creation.

There was one more chance for City to extend their lead still further before the final whistle, with Novillo making Louis Fenton look like a novice three minutes from time as he swept past the fullback before driving in a cross for Fornaroli.

Andrew Durante’s intervention denied the striker his hat-trick, but Melbourne weren’t to be denied the three points they sought from this encounter, one which leaves them on top of the pile and saw them become the first team in A-League history to crack the sixty-goal mark in regular season play, with Fornaroli’s 22-goal haul for the campaign also forcing a revision of the record books.

Match details

Crowd: 9,895

Melbourne City FC:    Sorensen (gk); Franjic, Chapman (booked, 84), Kisnorbo, Garuccio (Clisby, 72); Caceres (Retre, 86), Malik (Melling, 55), Zullo; Fitzgerald, Fornaroli, Novillo

Coach:  John van’t Schip

Wellington Phoenix FC:     Moss (gk); Fenton, Sigmund (Fox, 12), Durante, Muscat; Bonevacia (booked, 69), Riera (booked, 40) (Rodriguez, 73), Lia; Krishna (booked, 31) (Powell, 46), Watson, McGlinchey

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Referee:    Chris Beath

Ratings and points:

Match  6/10

Pitch  6/10

Referee  5/10

Player points
3.  Novillo (MC)
2  Fornaroli (MC)
1  Fitzgerald (MC)